There is a risk Covid ‘may spread rapidly’ in North Korea, says WHO

New Delhi, 16 May: Expressing concern over the COVID-19 situation in North Korea, the World Health Organization on Monday reiterated its commitment to supporting the country’s response to the pandemic.
North Korea on Monday reported eight deaths and 392,920 more people with fever symptoms. According to the country’s emergency anti-virus headquarters, over 1.2 million people have fallen ill as fever spread since late April. About 5,64,860 are under quarantine.
“WHO is concerned and ready to support the government and the people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to respond to the pandemic and save lives,” said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia.
Taking note of reports by KCNA, the official news agency of North Korea, about deaths and people with fever, she said, “We stand committed to assisting our member country, as needed, by providing technical support to scale up testing, strengthening case management, implementing situation-specific public health and social measures, and providing essential medical supplies.”
WHO is awaiting information from the national focal person for International Health Regulations (IHR) about the outbreak. The global health body had supported the country develop its national strategic preparedness and response plan for COVID-19, Singh said.
“With the country yet to initiate COVID-19 vaccination, there is a risk that the virus may spread rapidly among the masses unless curtailed with immediate and appropriate measures,” Dr Singh said.
The WHO regional director stressed that all countries, irrespective of their COVID-19 status, should roll out vaccination which protects against severe disease and death.
She said the global health body continues to work with the national authorities by providing them with necessary information on COVID-19 vaccines available through COVAX.
WHO had supported North Korea develop a COVID-19 vaccine deployment plan along with partner organizations — UNICEF and GAVI. The plan was reviewed and approved by a multi-partner body at the regional level, making North Korea eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines through COVAX, Singh said.
While reiterating that the pandemic is far from over, she said, “Every country must implement tailored public health and social measures and protect its population with COVID vaccines, prioritizing the vulnerable population such as health workers, the elderly and those with underlying conditions that put them at risk of severe disease and death. (PTI)